Typically, you will hear people say, that there are two primary rules of Wiccan ethics. The first are the Wiccan Rede and you harm none, do what you will. Which basically is saying you're free and you have the responsibility, you know, they go together. You are free to do as you wish but you cannot harm another. Not another person, another. Which means the Earth, it means an animal. So this is an interesting questions and a very difficult thing, especially these days to do.
But it makes you mindful, right? What are my actions? Are my actions doing harm? Am I walking softly upon the Earth, which is from the Native American. Or am indifferent, am I oblivious? Am I doing the equivalent of throwing my garbage out the window of my car as I drive down the highway? What are the consequences of my actions? I have to be responsible and do no harm.
And, of course, that leads to questions about vegetarianism and all sorts of things. But the essence of it is, I'm free to do as I will as long as I do no harm. So requires you to be attentive to your actions and be responsible for them.
The second principle you hear all the time is, 'And the reason that we don't do harm is because of the Three-Fold law.' Which essentially was, according to Doreen Valente who was Gardner's partner, made up by Gerald Gardner who had spent some time in India and who understood the principal of Karma. What you send out will essentially return to you. Which is a law of physics. What you do. Cause and effect. Okay.
But he took it and make it a law that went beyond that. The Three-Fold law. So, in other words, I won't do something bad. I won't cast a spell that's negative or harmful or I won't do baneful magic or hex anybody, these old terms, because something worse will happen to me. It will come back to me three times over. That drove me crazy from the very beginning. What, with being a lawyer, having majored in ethics, it drove me crazy. It was just, it didn't make sense in terms of the laws of physics. It's not the way nature works and this is a nature-based religion.
And as I thought about it, I realized it's punishment. Essentially, what he was doing was saying, 'I won't do something bad because if I do, something worse will happen to me.' That's punishment. And that's not appropriate. It's not necessary. And shouldn't necessary and it's not appropriate for a spiritual path, a religion, in which the world is sacred. In which the divine is everywhere present. It is necessary to have the threat of punishment and have rules and laws of that sort when God isn't present in the world.
You have the Ten Commandments. You have the Bible. You have of all these laws and strictures that accompany the Abrahamic faith because God is not present in the world. He created the world. He's gone. He's transcended. He's in heaven. He's not here. He left a rulebook. And we can all see how well we've been doing with the rulebook.
The threat of Hell, the threat of punishment, these are not the foundations for ethical conduct. It's based on self interest and avoiding pain. That's not ethics. Ethics is much more profound. It has a much more, a much deeper and more profound motivation.
True ethical behavior comes from the realization and the experience of the innate divinity, of the worth of the world that you live in. Of the other person that you are dealing with. Of the animal that is at your mercy. Of the planet that is also, now, very much at our mercy.
When you live in a sacred world you don't need a law, a threat of punishment to do the right thing. You do it because you understand that the divine dwells within you and in others. And so what is the promise to you then? It's respect, it's gratitude, it's care. And it is responsibility.
So I'm completely convinced that the true ethical norm for all the pagan traditions that are all essentially pantheistic, or pananthestic, that understand that creation is the expression of divinity.
The ethic is very simple. We live in a sacred world. We live in a sacred universe. And so we seek to live in a sacred manner. And it's the Earth that teaches us what that means.